This exhibition sees three painters Luke Sciberras, Guy Maestri and Robert Malherbe painting an area which each has a close affinity with. The group of painters regularly work in the historic Gold Rush town of Hill End in the central west of New South Wales. Curated by Ben Quilty, Jan Murphy Gallery is presenting these works which were painted en plein air by this tight knit group. Hill End has an artistic link to such great artists as Russell Drysdale, Donald Friend, Jeffery Smart and Margaret Olley who would paint there as early as 1947 onwards and has cemented its history within Australian modernism.
This modern day ensemble brings a fresh contemporary view to this area in the current show. The artists’ friendships and connection are revealed on canvas with a lively display of alla prima (wet in wet) painting by all three which achieves a visually arresting and cohesive aesthetic for this charming show.
I’d like to focus in particular on the work of Luke Sciberras who lives in Hill End and has spent many years dedicated to landscape painting. Sciberras pursues a poetic vision to his work and the landscape. Through diligent application to painting and regularly working outdoors, this deep affinity for the land combined with the artist’s naturally inquisitive approach provides for an ever evolving practice. The growing connections to his outdoor inspirations has resulted in a growing depth in Sciberras’ work and reinvigorating his own view of painting with exciting visual results.
Working en plein air, Sciberras’ regular field trips see him venturing into the Australian desert, outback western NSW, and the Northern Territory. Wilcannia, Broken Hill, the Tanami Desert, the MacDonnell and the East Flinders Rangers are also regular subjects.
This recent work in the current show reflects his lively approach to painting. In the painting Swallows Nest Creek Sciberras takes the fissures and fault lines in a section of hillside and creates an almost abstract vortex of space where the viewer feels like they are falling into the painting. Daring viewpoints such as these and bold colour, create works that are arresting and make strong visual statements.
Conversely there is also a subtlety to the artist’s work, a playful quality in the soft gouaches such as Turon Study where the white background is as important as the lyrical brush marks. Sciberras’ underlying affinity for the land and commitment to his craft has lead to some great works in this show, alongside that of his mates Maestri and Malherbe – the result is a stimulating exhibition.
Jan Murphy Gallery
12 August to 6 September 2014
Luke Sciberras, Swallows Nest Creek, Hill End, 2014, oil on linen, 160 x 240cm
Luke Sciberras, Hill End, 2014, oil on board, 120 x 120cm
Courtesy the artist and Jan Murphy Gallery, Brisbane